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Manhunt Creates Surreal Scene in Boston Region - NYTimes.com
Edition: U.S. / Global

U.S.

Manhunt Creates Surreal Scene in Boston Region

BOSTON — Hundreds of thousands of people across the Boston region woke up Friday morning to a surreal scene of terror on their television screens: a massive manhunt was under way in their normally tranquil neighborhoods for the lone surviving suspect of the marathon bombings.

And if they looked out their windows, they saw the same thing in real life an overwhelming show of force by heavily armed law enforcement officers. SWAT teams roamed their streets, rifles raised and helicopters circled overhead. In some cases, police officers banged on doors and searched neighborhoods house by house.

A sense of fear rippled across a region already on edge from Monday’s bombings, which killed three people and injured more than 170 others. The suspects’ crime spree, which began about 10:30 p.m. Thursday with a robbery at convenience store, quickly snowballed into deadly rampage that took the life of an M.I.T. campus police officer who was sitting in his car and left one suspect dead after a Wild West-like shootout in the streets of suburban Watertown.

It was a gray but unusually warm morning that finally promised the arrival of spring in southern New England. But residents of Watertown, many of whom could not have slept through the police sirens and volleys of gunfire, were quickly put in lockdown.

At 5:45 a.m., Gov. Deval Patrick ordered all public transit shut down, including the subway. Amtrak trains were halted south of Boston. Several area colleges, including Harvard, M.I.T. and Boston University, canceled Friday classes. By 6:30, residents of Cambridge received recorded phone calls telling them to “shelter in place,” meaning to stay home.

At 7:10, residents of Newton Center, received a recorded phone call from Newton’s chief of police telling them one suspect was dead and the other was armed, dangerous and in the area. The call advised residents to stay inside with doors locked and not to let anyone in. It urged businesses to close and asked people not to dial 911 unless it was a true emergency.

By 8 o’clock, the governor appeared at a makeshift command post in Watertown to say that he was extending his “shelter in place” order to “all of Boston.” Taxis were ordered off the streets.

The morning was riddled with false alarms. Parts of Commonwealth Avenue, a major artery through Boston, were blocked off while agents checked for a potential danger in Kenmore Square. When that proved false, another danger zone popped up somewhere else.

Any relief that the bombing suspects had been caught had to be put on hold until the residents here could first feel safe.